When the Big One hits…

By Murray Bourne, 28 Jul 2005

When I lived in Japan in the late 1980s, we would morbidly discuss worst-case earthquake scenarios. The "Big One" - a massive earthquake that will hit Tokyo - is long overdue. On average, massive earthquakes have hit the region every 70 years or so. The last one was in 1923, when most of the loss of life was due to fire (it hit just before lunchtime).

For me, the worst case would be if it hit when I was on the Marunouchi-sen, one of the Tokyo subway lines, at peak hour. This extraordinary line is jam-packed in the mornings, and there are 32 trains between 8:00 and 9:00 am. When I was there, the carriages weren't airconditioned (are they now...?). If the earthquake hits while the train is hundreds of metres from the nearest station and there is no power, no light and injured people everywhere - it won't be pretty.

Chiba (where I used to live) had a fairly large shake last week: CBS News | Strong Earthquake Hits Tokyo Area (no longer available). Not surprisingly, it caused great interruption, even though it caused minimal damage and injuries.

The inevitability of the next Big One is scary. I hope my in-laws survive it okay...

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